March trial date set for West Fargo teacher accused of sex with student
FARGO - A trial date has been set for the case of a West Fargo high school teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. A five- to seven-day trial starting March 24 has been scheduled in Cass County District Court for Aaron Kno...
FARGO - A trial date has been set for the case of a West Fargo high school teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student.
A five- to seven-day trial starting March 24 has been scheduled in Cass County District Court for Aaron Knodel, who was charged Aug. 22 with five counts of felony corruption or solicitation of a minor.
After pleading not guilty to the charges on Nov. 5, a dispositional conference was scheduled for this week, a hearing where a date is set either for a trial or for a change of plea.
According to court records, this week’s hearing was continued to March 10.
The 35-year-old decorated English teacher, academic coach and 2014 North Dakota Teacher of the Year is accused of engaging in sexual acts with a then 17-year-old student in his West Fargo High School classroom, at his home and in her car, starting in 2009, court records state.
Knodel faces two Class B felony charges for alleged sexual acts in his classroom and three Class C felony charges for alleged acts that took place at his residence and in the student’s car.
The former student is identified only by her initials in charging documents. The Pioneer typically does not identify victims of alleged sex-related crimes.
The student provided the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation with a copy of a “Twilight” book that allegedly contains notes from the teacher that refer to their relationship – notes that a handwriting analyst believes were written by Knodel.
Phone records were also found between Knodel and the student, but text message logs could not be provided, according to court documents.
Knodel has not commented on the case. His attorney Robert Hoy released a statement when charges were filed that said he expects a jury will find his client not guilty. Hoy also claims that Knodel passed a lie detector test proving his innocence.
“There are always two sides to every story,” the defense attorney said in the written statement.
The West Fargo School District placed Knodel on paid leave in February while the BCI investigated the allegations. He was then suspended without pay or benefits on Aug. 25 after he was charged.
Under North Dakota state law, a person under the age of 18 cannot consent to sex, though there’s an exception if both parties are within three years in age. The statute of limitations in allegations of the sexual abuse of minors in North Dakota is seven years from the time of the offense.
At the Nov. 5 court appearance, the judge kept Knodel’ s bail at $10,000 and said he could continue to be released on his own recognizance, meaning he didn’t have to post any of the bail amount or be booked into jail.